How to Apply for Medicaid or CHIP If You're Newly Uninsured

A comprehensive guide to get you started with a Medicaid or CHIP application

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During challenging times, the last thing you want to worry about is health insurance. Unfortunately for millions of Americans, it’s a top-of-mind matter right now.

When you’re newly uninsured, you want to know your immediate options. It can be a difficult or unsettling time, but with the right information, you can make the best decision for your situation.

The good news? You have options.

The better news? With this piece, we’ll help you better understand those options.

Two items we’ll dive into in this article are Medicaid and CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

So, let’s answer the first question.

What is Medicaid?

In short, Medicaid is a state- and federally funded program that provides free or low-cost coverage to millions of Americans. Whether you qualify depends on your age, income and whether you’re disabled.

States run the Medicaid program, so depending on where you live, it may be called something else[1]. (The website has a helpful list of state-specific Medicaid names for reference.)

What is CHIP?

CHIP is a federally funded, low-cost option for children in some families. CHIP is ideal for families that need support but aren’t eligible for Medicaid because they earn too much money. Typically that means $50,000 or more per year for a family of four.

Like Medicaid, CHIP doesn’t have an open enrollment period, like plans in the Affordable Care Act or those offered by employers. You can enroll in both Medicaid and CHIP any time of the year.

If you qualify for Medicaid, your children should qualify for either Medicaid or CHIP.

How to Apply for Medicaid and/or CHIP

First, you’ll want to know if you actually qualify.

The site can tell you if you’re eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. You’ll simply need to enter information like household income and where you live.

If you think you may be eligible, there are two primary ways you can apply for either program.

The first is to apply through your state Medicaid agency. This is the most common method — and the most recommended.

The state will review your application and determine if you and your family are eligible for Medicaid coverage. If approved, your plan will offer comprehensive coverage regardless of which state you live in.

For other coverages and plan details, you should review your state’s Medicaid website. Benefits are different in each state.

The Good-To-Knows & Need-To-Knows

Income is the top factor in deciding eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. States with expanded Medicaid options can qualify you for coverage solely based on household income.

States without expanded Medicaid options have their own rules for eligibility, and these vary state by state. It’s best to review your state’s regulations before submitting an application.

CHIP is connected to Medicaid programs in most states. The general rule is that if you, the primary plan holder, qualify for Medicaid, then your children should qualify for either program.

You could be eligible for other low-cost healthcare options.

Learn More

Rob Mixer is a writer and content marketer based in Columbus, Ohio. He has nearly 10 years of experience in professional sports and advertising, with clients such as Root Insurance, Ashcroft, Club Car, The Athletic and more.

Julian Dassai is an illustrator, cartoonist and musician from Athens, Greece. Currently an Adjunct Instructor of Illustration at the Columbus College of Art and Design, Julian also has taught workshops in comic book writing and drawing for the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library, Otterbein University, The Pomerene Center for the Arts and Columbus Public Schools. He’s worked in a variety of graphic arts, including magazine illustration, cartooning and album design.

This article was last updated July 21, 2020

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